Marquette vs. Miami: Marquette has found itself against Davidson and well-respected Bob McKillop and Butler and its well-respected Brad Stevens. Miami's Jim Larranaga has been profiled quite a bit this year as a bit of a Moneyball college hoops coach. Can Buzz and company take down another?
The key to this game will be whether Marquette can protect the ball or not. Besides sketchy 3-point shooting, they're weak on protecting the ball. Their turnover % is 20.9%, which is 234th in the land. Miami doesn't force a lot of turnovers typically, so Marquette can't afford to allow them to improve that in this game. Miami doesn't foul and cleans the defensive glass, something Marquette excels on offensively. Not protecting the ball will make it difficult for them to win.
Miami is a good 3-point shooting team and Marquette is okay at defending it. They'll need to guard the Canes from beyond the arc. Unlike Marquette on offense, the Canes don't get to the glass that well and don't get to the line at all. The Golden Eagles usually guard well enough to keep teams off the line but have been a weak defensive rebounding team. They need to limit the Hurricanes second chance opportunities, especially from long range.
In the Illinois game, Miami was devoured in the second half on the glass and that allowed the Illini to stay in it. That wasn't the norm. Can Marquette do this to Miami? If they can, and they protect the ball, they can win. Miami is the favorite according to KenPom.
Pick: Miami 56 Marquette 52 (I'll stick with this even w/o Reggie Johnson making the trip)
Syracuse vs. Indiana: This is a rematch of the great 1987 title game. 26 years later, only Jim Boeheim remains the same. Can his zone defense help stifle the good shooting Hooisers?
There aren't many things Indiana doesn't do well on offense. If they have one weakness, they're a little loose with the ball but even at that, they're still average. This'll be a spot Syracuse needs to exploit. The Orange were 23rd in the nation in defensive turnover %. They also held teams to a 9th best 43.1% effective fg%. Teams can make 3's against the zone but they only make 29% of attempts. Indiana makes 40.8% of their 3's. There's a key stat to watch.
Offensively, Syracuse has been great at rebounding misses while Indiana has been so-so on the defensive glass. Again, to pull the upset, Syracuse needs to take advantage of this. Otherwise, it's a wash between the two, except Indiana has been good at holding teams to bad shooting. Their defensive effective fg% is 43.9, which is 18th best in America while Syracuse is an average shooting team.
There are certainly some things that say Syracuse can win this game and it shouldn't completely shock us if they do. But this is one where I'd lean to the eye test. Syracuse played okay in the Big East tournament after a terrible finish during the regular season. Still, they haven't looked that good to me while Indiana does more things better and more consistentcy as a team and from its players.
Pick: Indiana 70 Syracuse 63
Arizona vs. Ohio State: Two months ago, you'd have had the seedings reversed. Arizona scuffled down the stretch while Ohio State has been arguably the most improved team since February 1st.
Arizona is loose with the ball on offense but surprisingly despite the Aaron Craft worship, OSU is just average at forcing turnovers. Arizona is good at shooting the 3 and has a good effective fg% and OSU is good defensively at those things. OSU doesn't foul a lot and the Wildcats don't get to the line. Arizona's key on offense? Protect the ball. Can they do that against Craft and the Buckeyes w/o a true PG?
Offensively, Ohio State is real good at not turning it over. They have an effective fg% of 51.2%, while Arizona defensive fg% is 46.5%. Ohio State isn't good at getting to the line nor very special on the offensive glass while the Wildcats are 13th best in the land in protecting the defensive glass. To pull the upset, Arizona needs to limit second chance points to the Buckeyes. If they give up that advantage, it'll be that much more difficult.
Part of me sees enough in the numbers to pick Arizona in an upset but Ohio State has been playing better. Arizona wasn't tested in the 1st two games while Ohio State went to the buzzer against Iowa State. Arizona is talented enough but are they tough and disciplined enough?
Pick: Ohio State 67 Arizona 62
Wichita State vs. La Salle: I'm such a dork, this is the game I want to see the most in the next round not including Marquette. Besides the "mid-major" Sweet 16 matchup, it's an interesting contrast.
La Salle plays a 4-guard lineup that Ole Miss should have beaten into submission but you know Marshall had to Marshall. On offense, La Salle shoots the 3 well and protects the ball well. They don't get to the line at all nor do they hit the glass. On the other hand, Wichita State cleans the glass on both sides. If La Salle is getting offensive boards, Wichita State no showed.
La Salle defends well without fouling. They also defend the arc well. Wichita State bombed their way past Gonzaga but generally speaking, they're not know as a 3 point shooting team. They shoot 50% from inside the arc and La Salle gets beat up there as they're the worst defensive team in regard to fg% defense on 2's. Couple that with what should be a huge advantage on the boards, La Salle's best defense will probably be trying to force the Shockers to launch from deep.
La Salle has 2 more tournament wins than they did combined since 1956. They withstood a late Kansas State charge and then beat Ole Miss at the wire. Destiny's darlings or Cinderella whose coach is about to turn into a pumpkin. Wichita State has more clear advntages and is fully healthy, something they didn't have the bulk of the season.
Pick: Wichita State 70 La Salle 58